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Feb. 23, 2009
For the first time in its history, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District will convene at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Chief Judge Thomas H. Newton has announced.
The court is scheduled to begin its session at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, in the J.W. Jones Student Union Ballroom. The three-member panel, consisting of Judge Lisa White Hardwick, Judge Victor Howard and Missouri Supreme Court Justice James Zel Fischer, will hear oral arguments in three cases. Students, faculty, staff and members of the general public are all welcome to attend.
Newton said the cases are appeals of trials heard by area circuit courts. The judges will hear attorneys argue whether the cases should be retried or the lower court's judgment reversed.
During breaks between cases and following the session, the judges will discuss the court system, explain the proceedings and take questions from the gallery, Newton said.
"This is a process that people aren't usually exposed to," said Dan Smith, an assistant professor of political science at Northwest who teaches advanced courses on the law, judicial politics and the U.S. Constitution and holds a law degree from the University of Virginia.
"Because it's an appellate proceeding, the attorneys will basically argue points of law and where they think there was a mistake made below." Smith said. "The judges will interact with them, ask them questions and interrupt them. It's basically a dialog about the issue tied to the facts, and it's something that students haven't really been exposed to as far as how the process works and how our laws change, how they are interpreted and how they are applied."
Smith said court officials contacted the University and asked if Northwest would be interested in hosting a session.
"They want to be out at universities and in communities holding these sessions from time to time so that the public gets to see what the process is like," he said. "They don't want people to feel like the judiciary is something that happens up on a hill, and that there is no connection with the community."
The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals convened at the Nodaway County Courthouse in 1993. However, this will be its first session at Northwest. The court normally convenes in Kansas City and has appeals jurisdiction over trial courts in 45 counties in northwest and central Missouri.
Judge Hardwick, who will preside over the proceedings at Northwest, was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2001. She previously served as a trial judge in Jackson County and practiced law for 14 years in Kansas City. Howard was appointed in 1996 after serving as a trial judge in Clay County. Fischer, a native of Rockport, is the newest member of the Missouri Supreme Court, having been appointed by Governor Matt Blunt in 2008. He previously served as associate circuit judge for Atchison County and practiced law in Atchison, Holt and Nodaway counties.
"It is important for the court to convene oral arguments outside of Kansas City," Hardwick said. " This gives individuals an opportunity to observe a part of the judicial system they normally do not see. We hope those attending will gain a better understanding of the court's function."
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468